Turning a Blind Eye to the Rules of Golf

I was thinking back to the kerfuffle about players breaking the rules during the 2019 golf season. I will not name names because this post in not a rant against specific players, but what is being taught to amateurs by leaders of our game. When I read about golfers intentionally turning a blind eye to players breaking the rules is when I get a little hot under the collar.

Many of the news reports talk about a players breaking the rules. It always seems that the rule breaker is the one everyone focuses upon because they seem to be cheating the field. Well, what about the player who intentionally does not call their playing partner when there is a rule infraction. Are they not as guilty for throwing the field to the wolves?

And yet, when a professional golfer does make the call this is what they have to put with:

“I’ve been called a nark. … Unfortunately, the rules of golf don’t really care about who your friends, don’t really care about your personal emotions, and one thing I pride myself in is my integrity and just knowing that I had to do the right thing,” Kim said. “If I was going to sit there and try to protect my two friends, one, I’m in breach of the rules, which is something I hole scared, and two, that’s unfair to the other 95 players in the field, so it was a really tough decision.”


Kim did the right thing. I also think that the message that anyone calling a rules infraction is ridiculed is bad for golf.

I read a long list of rules infractions that caught the attention of the media, viewers, and analysts. An overwhelming number of ‘calls’ were phone in declarations by fans watching at home. The barrage of calls resulting in some pretty serious results finally led to a change of rules that disallows viewers from calling with rules infractions (on a side note, I agree with this rule change). I was interested to find that none of the articles mentioned the playing partner calling the rules discretion. I mean, as players, are we not suppose to be an official at the same time?

I can admit I am a bit two faced. If I am playing a friendly with someone and they want to bend the rules, I really do not care. I mean it is only themselves they are hurting. I am sure that I have bent a rule or two from time to time. However, during competition, that is a completely different thing.

I was burnt once about 18 years ago when I did not call a player on a sand trap infraction. I knew the rule and mentioned it on the next tee, but wanted to be a good guy and did not follow up. My teammates went crazy and rightly so! The two strokes the player would have received would have changed the standings for that day and maybe for the entire event. I still kick myself for the faux pas, but now I am very rigid about following all the rules during competition for myself, my playing partner and my opponents! I have to admit that I was being very naive back then and have matured since. Now, during competition and regular play, I try to follow all the rules regardless of the consequences.

So, turning a blind eye happens at the amateur level. However, at the professional level it should never happen. Golf built its reputation on integrity and turning a blind eye is not part of the founders intentions. During competition being a rules official is part of playing. I do not let it overshadow my play, but I am conscious of what my playing partner does 95% of the time. It is an expectation of all players especially players with lower handicaps.

I believe that all players should call their own rules infractions. In the case where they miss their error, their playing partner is expected to step up and make the call. It is a tough thing to do, but turning a blind eye has no place in competitive golf. Thoughts?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “Turning a Blind Eye to the Rules of Golf

  1. It is interesting when we talk about “protecting the field.” Over the years, I have rarely seen a professional call another on a rule. The reason? Probably because of what happened to Kim. She was criticized more than the golfers who had violated a rule. I have heard interviews with some of the all time greats where they have seen some players who fudge on the rules but they never called them on it. When we look at what happened with Patrick Reed and Lexi Thompson, those incidents happened because the TV cameras caught them, not other players mentioning it. After the Reed incident, a couple pros mentioned that they have seen similar infractions from other players over the years but they never turned them in. When it becomes a “he said/she said” it gets really messy.


    • Riley,

      You are right on all counts. It should not be that way especially at the professional level. However, the amount of money a player can loose from just one stroke might be a mitigating factor!

      Cheers Jim


  2. Jim, probably easier to do in a match play scenario where you are going directly head-to-head with your opponent and a ruling has a clear impact on the hole or match. I think amateurs have a more difficult time with the concept of protecting the field.

    I learned a good lesson a long time ago. It’s best to carry a rule book. When a dispute arises, you don’t refer to the infraction in the first person, i.e. “You did this,” you frame it as, “let’s see what the rule book states about the situation.” Can diffuse an emotional response.

    I’m with you on the responsibility of every player.




    • Brian

      It just so happens that I do carry a rule book. However, electronic means via phone seems to the way to go now. I have used it several times in tournaments. You might be right about amateurs not understanding the “protect the field concept’.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

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